ASHAWAY — The new East Coast Mental Wellness office that opened on Main Street in Ashaway on Oct. 1 is a welcome addition to a community that has been traditionally underserved by mental health care providers.
Hopkinton Town Council President Frank Landolfi said he was happy to see the new business come to town.
"It’s very good news, obviously,” he said. “We like any new businesses to relocate to our town and I wish them the best of luck. If they need anything further from the town, they can certainly reach out to me directly and I’d be happy to help them in any way I can.”
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Melissa DaSilva, who grew up in Bradford, and Chief Operating Officer Tracy Young, whose family lived in Richmond, have a relationship that dates back to DaSilva’s school days.
Young was a social worker at Chariho high school and later, in the middle school, for 24 years. DaSilva attended Chariho High School and returned there when she was in graduate school at Rhode Island College to intern with Young.
Young said, “When Melissa was a student, and I knew her then, she said, ‘I want to be a social worker,’ and I said ‘if you go to school, in the second year of your master’s program, you can come back and intern with me.’”
East Coast Mental Wellness opened its first office in Providence in 2015 and now employs 23 clinicians there. The practice offers an array of counseling services for clients of all ages and is a trusted provider to the LGBTQ+ community.
DaSilva said she opened the Ashaway office because she believed there was a need in the area.
“I wanted to come down here, because when I was growing up, there weren’t many services available for people,” she said. “We had Wood River Health Services, South Shore Mental Health and maybe a few independent therapists, and so I knew that I wanted to come back here — I live in East Providence — and provide services I knew the community didn’t have. We market to the LGBTQ+ community, and I know that’s something that’s not really talked a lot about down here.”
Young, who worked at Chariho until last August, said she had often had trouble finding providers for students who needed therapy.
“Part of my job was to refer students out to community providers and you don’t know how many times I called, or the parents would call me back and say ‘I called the three or four people you referred me to and they all have a long waiting list or they’re not taking any more clients,’ so there’s such a great need,” she said.
At the Ashaway office, Young, DaSilva and part-time clinician Trinette Conover see patients of all ages, including children.
"Two of the kids that I’m seeing here, they were actually referred by the New England Center for Anxiety in Westerly, because they have a two-month waiting list,” Young said.
There is no waiting list at East Coast, DaSilva explained, because she expands the practice to meet the need.
“We don’t ever have a waiting list, because I just continue to grow the practice,” she said. “That’s why I’m in this building, because I have plans to hopefully take over more spaces.”
In addition to expanding their office space, DaSilva and Young are looking ahead to introducing new services. Young, an equestrian, would like to get into equine-assisted therapy and both women hope to begin offering their services to area schools.
“In August, I emailed all of the superintendents, probably about 10 South County schools, and we’re just kind of waiting to hear back from them,” Young said. “I have had a meeting with the Westerly school department and they’re still in the process of reviewing our procedures and the expectations and the contract, so our hope is to initially get into the Westerly school department first. We’ve made calls to Chariho as well.”
In addition to the clinical staff, East Coast uses therapy animals when appropriate. The therapy dogs are Brutus the pug and a Shih Tzu named Finbarr.
“We have therapy dogs, and in Providence, we have a therapy cat, Bean,” DaSilva said.
Hopkinton Town Council member Sylvia Thompson said community would benefit from a new mental health resource.
“I think that more and more people are open to these services,” she said. “It’s a good thing and it’s helpful. We could probably all use some counseling from time to time in our lives.”
More information on East Coast Mental Wellness is available at: www.eastcoastmentalwellness.com